Re: How are analog formats doing?
Mark Knopfler was still recording to tape in his London studio as of the last album or two.
As for digital vs. analog, it's true that the earliest digital could sound a bit brittle, with some splatter. No, you couldn't hear it on ear buds or computer speakers... I'm talking about listening on more revealing high-end system. Cymbals and horns suffered the worst from this. But as digital recording improved and higher resolutions were possible, the sounds smoothed out and in theory (and based on human hearing) are perfectly realistic.
What analog tape has always done is to introduce its inherent saturation/distortion, and this is where the "warmth" comes from. It's not that it's unrealistic, it's just what we've been used to hearing. Sort of like the transition from film to video, or analog tv to digital & hi-def. There was a 'texture' (read: warmth) that's no longer there. It's not always good or bad, it's just different. Anyway, the analog tape warmth is what made drums sound punchy, bass sound warm, vocals sound present, etc. An old trick to get really punchyh/crunchy drums was to record them at 7.5ips, then copy those tracks to the master reel running at 15 or 30ips and record everything else more cleanly.
How do we get that analog sound now? Two ways. Either record to analog tape then transfer the tracks to digital (which will retain all of the saturation, even though it didn't create it on its own) or, there are plug-ins to restore the analog sound, sort of a pre-mastering process.
I'm trying to think back to the last time I recorded to tape... maybe 2003?